The first thing you need to realize is that the Katmai Adventure Lodge is expensive. Really expensive. $3,500 for three nights/two days for two of us. That rate includes round-trip air from Anchorage to King Salmon, but even then you're looking at over $800 a night. That can't help but create certain expectations, and the KAL falls far short of meeting them.
Our adventure started in the Anchorage airport when we learned that they had in fact only made air reservations for one of us. Fortunately there was another flight to King Salmon a couple of hours later, and after an hour of effort by the good people at Penn Air they were able to get me on that flight. A nuisance, and certainly not high-end attention to detail, but not the end of the world. I was met at the airport by the owner/manager holding up the wrong sign and seeming somewhat annoyed at having to drive into town a second time to pick me up (be aware - the lodge seems to exist under multiple names - Katmai Adventure Lodge, Katmai Trophy Lodge, ? others). We got in a dirty old truck with a broken windshield and headed down the road, past the abandoned and rusted gravel equipment, past the smashed abandoned cars - this isn't Alaska at its finest - and not long after arrived at the lodge. Again, expectations. This place simply isn't very nice. If you were headed off to your uncle's hunting shack for the weekend it would be great, but your uncle isn't charging you $800 a night. The yard is littered with, well, stuff. The floors are plywood. No fireplace (although it appears from the pipe hanging from the ceiling that it crossed someone's mind at some point). Everything is built as cheaply as possible, particularly in the guest rooms. The view is, well, there really isn't one. Meals are served at a set time by Karen the cook, who seems to be a truly nice person. The food is very well prepared but reminiscent of dinner at Grandma's house - pot roast, chicken breasts, generic stuff sure not to offend anyone She packs you a little bag-lunch with a ham and cheese sandwhich, bag of chips, and a cookie (as we sat in the park, eating our chips next to a group whose guide had brought them a fairly impressive feast, we couldn't help but feel we made a wrong choice at some point (although they felt sorry for us and contributed a Diet Coke to the cause)). I know, it's my fault for having read too many cookbooks featuring the amazing recipes of chefs from Alaskan lodges. Did I mention this place cost $800 a night?
Our package included two days of "guided bear viewing", which we were told would be at two different locations. On arrival we were told that the bears were all at Brooks so we would be going to the same place twice and, since there were rangers there there was no need for guides. So our "guided" viewing amounted to be driven to town, a 15 minute floatplane trip to the park, being dropped off and told to meet the plane back at the beach in eight hours. The bears were great, but so much for "guided" anything.
We headed off to the airport on the morning of the third day with a couple who were checking out early (after only one night) and a couple of photographers who were equally disappointed by the experience and who were directly told, by the owner/manager at the airport, that they hadn't left a big enough tip on the nightstand (the cook and her "helper" were great, but apparently tipping the non-existent guides is a requirement as well - and, how did he even know?).
Somewhere along the line the KAL, with its high price and promises, created expectations that weren't even close to being met. Stay anywhere else. Maybe it's all me, but I'm sticking with the uncle's hunting shack next time.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- At Katmai Adventure Lodge you can experience the Alaskan vacation of a lifetime. Bear viewing, kayaking, hiking, flight seeing, fishing, beach combing, and rafting are all accessible day trips from the lodge. Our beautiful log lodge is right at river’s edge, with stunning views in every direction. Each of our well-appointed guest rooms has its own bathroom with hot water, showers, and flushing toilets - luxuries not always found in remote lodge. ... more less